Most people do not fully understand cataracts
Johnson & Johnson Vision’s 2017 Cataract Awareness Survey found that only 11 percent are aware that vision loss due to cataracts can be regained after surgery.
Most people in Singapore fail to fully understand cataracts and its emotional burden even though they are a natural part of ageing, and more than three in four (78.6 percent) adults above the age of 60 are affected by them, according to Johnson & Johnson Vision’s 2017 Cataract Awareness Survey.
Cataract is the clouding of the lens in one’s eye which decreases vision quality, and is the leading cause of preventable blindness, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), affecting over 35 million people worldwide in 2010. Despite many claiming to know about cataracts, only one in 10 (11 percent) are aware that vision loss due to cataracts can be regained after surgery and almost one in three (30 percent) are unaware that the procedure can also correct astigmatism and presbyopia.
Further worrying, according to the survey, one in five (20 percent) think that cataracts can spread from one eye to another. A cataract can occur in either eye or both eyes, but it cannot spread from one eye to the other.
“As we are living longer, our expectations of leading a fulfilling life also increase. So, it is surprising that many people allow poor vision to affect their quality of life – often visiting an eye specialist only when their daily activities are severely affected. As a leader in eye health, we recognise the need to raise awareness and correct misconceptions about cataracts to help reduce its burden on multiple aspects of an individual’s life,” said Mandeep Grover, regional marketing director, Johnson & Johnson Vision, Asia-Pacific and Japan.
Johnson & Johnson Vision has launched a ‘Cataract Awareness’ campaign to dispel common misconceptions and demonstrate the significant emotional and lifestyle benefits patients experience after cataract surgery. As part of its awareness initiatives, Johnson & Johnson Vision has launched a documentary-style film offering intimate glimpses into patients’ journeys including how untreated cataracts threaten the loss of heritage in multicultural Singapore. It can be viewed HERE.
One of the stories includes 78-year-old shoemaker Soong Kwek Choong, who shared, “In recent months, I started noticing that things didn’t appear as clear or colourful as they used to and my eyesight was starting to get blurry. My job requires me to have good vision, so I can do the detailing that my customers would like. I didn’t want to be limited by my deteriorating vision. So, I quickly scheduled an appointment with my eye doctor who recommended cataract surgery. Since the surgery, I feel happy and more independent with my improved eyesight and less worried to take on any kind of intricate shoe orders.”
As cataracts develop gradually, many often ignore symptoms or attribute blurred vision to ageing, risking late detection of cataracts and, in serious cases, losing their vision. Despite perceiving blindness to be worse than having cancer, AIDS and Alzheimer’s disease, more than three in 10 people continue living in discomfort, often waiting longer than three months before going for treatment, according to the survey.
“More often than not, patients hesitate to go for surgery due to ignorance of treatment options which can be easily addressed if they go for regular eye check-ups. In fact, cataracts can be removed through a simple, painless procedure, with most patients able to see normally the next day,” said Dr Ronald Yeoh, senior consultant ophthalmic surgeon at Camden Medical Centre. “I’ve had countless patients who underwent cataract surgery and said they felt considerably happier, more energetic and more confident as their eyesight was restored and their lives transformed.”
The 2017 Cataract Awareness Survey further revealed that four in five (86.9 percent) don’t have full understanding of cataract treatment options. Furthermore, more than three in four (77.5 percent) are unaware that new technologies exist that can provide a full range of continuous, high-quality vision following cataract surgery, while mitigating the effects of presbyopia (age-related long-sightedness) by helping people focus on near objects.
After undergoing cataract surgery for both eyes in 2016, Wendy Hanai, 48, who is also in the film, is living proof of an improved quality of life, saying, “It is amazing how a simple procedure can restore the vision I had in my younger days. My eye specialist and I made the decision to opt for a lens that could provide high-quality, continuous vision at all distances while correcting my long-sightedness at the same time!”
She added: “I did not realise the true emotional and physical impact of the condition until after my surgery. Everything appears clear, and I feel younger, more energetic and enjoy going about my daily activities so much more! Surgery was one of my best decisions and I would recommend cataract patients to consider the same.”
Lowdown on cataracts
Cataract is the clouding of the eye’s lens, the normally transparent structure that directs light onto the back of the eye and allows humans to see. Most people develop cataracts as they age, starting around 60. Cataracts may also develop after eye injuries and other eye-related diseases or as a result of certain diseases like diabetes, or the use of certain medications such as corticosteroids or antipsychotics.
The condition progresses gradually, so many people don’t realise it until their vision gets severely impacted or interferes with their daily activities. The severity of cataracts may vary in degree – from slightly obscuring vision, to totally obstructing the passage of light. If left untreated, it can result in total blindness. Symptoms include difficulty seeing well at night, especially while driving, with cloudy vision, halos around lights, double vision in one eye, light sensitivity and colours appearing faded – disrupting the daily routines of cataract patients. Cataracts cannot be prevented or reversed, but may only be delayed by limiting eye exposure to UV light and by reducing smoking levels.
Cataracts are a natural part of ageing and eventually everyone develops them. Cataracts were responsible for 51 percent of global blindness in 2010. As people’s average lifespan increases, the number affected by cataract is anticipated to grow. In Singapore, the incidence of cataract dramatically increases as people pass the age of 60, with more than three in four (78.6 percent) elderly patients suffering from cataract. If this trend continues, there will be nearly two million elderly patients suffering from cataracts by 2050.
The primary treatment for cataracts is surgery, in which the eye’s opaque lens is removed and replaced with an artificial lens, called an intraocular lens (IOL). Standard cataract surgery is normally done under local anaesthesia and most people are awake during the procedure. In Singapore, a total of 45,125 cataract surgeries were conducted in both private and public hospitals in 2016.
Aside from the standard lens that corrects either near or far-sightedness, exciting technological advances have been introduced to address common vision impairment conditions, such as astigmatism, near, and farsightedness (myopia and hyperopia). Since the early 2000s, new technologies used in corrective surgery have been applied to remove cataracts faster and with more precision.